I is for Ida

Ida sat at her kitchen table and scanned the morning newspaper. She sipped her coffee and took a bite of her honey-slathered toast. As usual the news was all depressing. “Screw this Noise” she said out loud, though there was no one around to hear her. She called information and got the phone number for the newspaper’s subscription department. When an associate named Wiley asked Ida why she wanted to cancel her subscription she said, “because there is nothing good left in this world, we have gone to Hell in a Hand Basket,” and she hung up.

After completing her morning chores, Ida put on her face, then drove to her local supermarket. With a short list in hand she walked slowly down the aisles with her cart. A young boy pushed by her on his way to grab a box of cookies, “young man, show some respect to your elders” Ida yelled. He looked at her, terrified and his mother glared at Ida. “Don’t talk to my precious boy like that” she said. “Precious?He’s hardly precious, he just about knocked me down. I could sue you!” The woman, dressed in drape-y expensive neutrals, accented by faux spiritual jewelry, grabbed her son and hurried away.  “I can hardly wait to see what kind of a nightmare he grows up to be!” Ida yelled after her.

She turned down the aisle marked “International Foods.” Ida felt superior to the schmucks who just shopped the “regular” aisles, as if she were more worldly and progressive. She placed a package of Italian cookies in her cart, then added a box of Abuelita Mexican style instant chocolate drink mix. “Es Muy Delicioso” said Ida loudly to a woman standing nearby. “Good to know,” answered the woman, quickly turning her cart away from Ida. “At least I know a little Spanish,” Ida grumbled.

At the check-out counter she stood behind a young man who had several containers of Tofu, along with many vegetables. “Are you a Vegetarian?”  Ida asked him accusingly. The young man eyed her, smiling slightly.  “Yes Ma’am I am,” he answered. “That’s why you’re so thin and pasty, you need to eat some meat. But you have good manners, so that’s something I guess.” The young man sighed, paid his bill and took his canvas shopping bags with him. The cashier started ringing up Ida’s purchases, hoping to avoid any conversation with her. “Did you color your hair yourself?” asked Ida. The cashier flinched. “Yes, I did, why do you ask?” “Well, I think you went a little overboard on the red, it’s too bright. People are going to see you coming from a mile away. You should stick with a nice light auburn.” The cashier gritted her teeth. If her Manager wasn’t standing nearby she would tell Ida to go jump in a lake. “Oh well, to each her own I guess,” she said cheerily.

On her way back to her car, Ida saw the most adorable little black dog tied up to a pole outside the store. “Unbelievable!” she exclaimed. She hated people who tied up their dogs while they were busy running errands. It was too dangerous, anything could happen – the dog could break free and get run over by a car, a mean kid might tease the dog, the dog could eat something and get sick…She would like to tie the dog’s owner to a pole and see how she or he liked it! Ida put her groceries in her car and then went back to the dog. She bent down and petted the dog and spoke to him lovingly. The dog seemed to take to her immediately.  “Your owner does not deserve you,” she cooed. And then, just like that, she untied the dog, picked him up and when he didn’t resist, she carried him back to her car. He rode shotgun with her back to the house, not seeming to mind one bit that he was with a complete stranger.

Back at the house Ida found an old frisbee in the hall closet and she and Sammy – the perfect name for him! – played in the backyard until Sammy was tired out. She then set down a bowl of water and made him a cozy bed from old comforters and pillows, though she knew she would let him sleep with her tonight. She figured he deserved a special meal, so she would cook him chicken and rice for dinner. Sammy, exhausted from the exercise and sudden life change, immediately passed out. Ida made herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and watched him sleep. He snored like her long dead husband, Earl. But Sammy was much cuter than Earl. Earl had had a face that not even his mother could have loved, but he had been a good man. Well, he had been a reasonably good man. Ida lay down on her beige chenille couch.  Actually Earl had not been a very good man at all, what the hell was she thinking?! He had been mean as a snake! Ugly and mean – there’s a winning combination for you! Ida chuckled to herself. She had been so happy the day Earl died that she had gone out shopping to celebrate. She had bought herself a pair of blue sandals, a matching purse and a perfume called “La Vie Est Belle.” Ida closed her eyes and was soon fast asleep. Sammy eventually joined her on the couch, jamming his face under her left armpit.

 

H is for Helena

Helena moved quietly through life.  Disturbing no one. Being a model citizen.  Always towing the line.  Then one morning Helena woke up and thought, “I don’t want to be quiet anymore.”  She called in sick to work, something she had never done in her twenty years of working for the Brexam Accounting Firm.  Her boss was shocked and offered to send someone over with food and medicine.  “That won’t be necessary,” said Helena with a faux cough, “I had the drugstore deliver everything I need.”  Helena was struck by how much she enjoyed lying, the sensation was arousing.

Usually Helena began her day with ten minutes of stretching, followed by a luke-warm shower, a bowl of granola and yogurt and a cup of green tea.  But this morning she skipped the exercise and shower, got dressed and headed out to a swanky hotel restaurant for breakfast. She ordered a Mimosa and Belgian waffles.  The combination of maple syrup and the champagne’s bubbles were perhaps the best thing Helena had ever tasted.  Her waiter was extremely handsome and she flirted shamelessly with him.  As she left the cafe – after leaving him a 50% tip – she whispered in his ear, “you are just delicious.”

Helena grabbed a cab to her local upscale department store and headed straight to the Personal Shopping Department. A woman named Rika, with a severe black bob and thin red lips, asked Helena what she needed help with.  “I need to find the real me.  I seem to have lost her.  My budget is $3000.”  Rika nodded approvingly and motioned to a clothing rack filled with a multitude of styles, colors and fabrics. “Choose one piece that speaks to you, there is no right or wrong.  Just choose the piece that makes you feel alive.”  Without hesitating, Helena followed her instincts and quickly chose a silk, floral dress in shades of eggplant, fuchsia and black.  “Thank you,” said Rika.  “This dress will serve as the inspiration for your new wardrobe.  Also, you need a new hairstyle, you cannot find the real you with that hair.  That hair is heavy with regret, bad memories, a life half-lived.  Joseph at our Salon will cut it, Joseph knows.”

Helena left the store with two garment bags, four shopping bags and something called “a Lob,” which was a silly way of saying a long bob. At home, after carefully putting away all her new clothes and accessories, she poured herself a glass of red wine.  It was an expensive bottle, given to her last year by her boss for Christmas.  She filled a bowl full of pita chips and got in bed.  She turned on the television and watched one of those vacuous Home Hunting shows.  This one featured a woman about Helena’s age starting a new life in Paris.  Helena crunched away, taking in the beauty of the architecture in Paris.  “My God,” she thought, “such a beautiful city.”  She licked the salt off her fingers and took a long, slow sip of wine.  Then she grabbed her laptop off of her bedside table.  She started typing.  Air France. One way ticket, first class.  Date of departure – tomorrow.  A sudden wave of panic overcame her – “my passport!”  She frantically looked in her filing cabinet and there it was – updated and sitting in a pretty red leather case – in a file labelled “Identification Documents.”  Helena exhaled, took the passport and went back to her bed.  After typing in her passport number, credit card info and other information she pressed “Purchase.”  She was not being quiet anymore. She and her “Lob” were going to Paris.

G is for Gloria

Gloria fished out a dime from the bottom of her shoulder bag and called Marty.  He picked up on the fourth ring. “Where the hell are you?!” screamed Gloria into the phone.  Marty sounded groggy, like he was still in bed. “What time is it?” he asked, yawning.  It’s 4:15, the movie starts in fifteen minutes!  This was supposed to be a date Marty – you were supposed to be taking me on a God Damn date!  Fuck You Marty. Fuck you!”  She slammed down the receiver.

Gloria pulled out a Menthol and started walking towards the movie theatre.  Two teenage girls passed by.  They were dressed in ripped black fishnets, mini-skirts and black leather jackets.  One had painted her lips black, the other had drawn a huge spider web on the left side of her face.  For The Love Of God, thought Gloria.  She walked a few more blocks then took a final drag of her cigarette, tossing it on the sidewalk and flattening it with her Candies clogs.  She went up to the box office where a chunky lady sat snapping gum.  The lady’s hair was teased into a tall rounded pouf, where Gloria imagined she kept hundreds of sticks of gum.  “One adult ticket please,” Gloria said.  “No date with you honey?  How come ya don’t have a boyfriend?  You’re a pretty little thing.  You should find yourself a nice man and settle down.”  She handed Gloria her ticket.  Gloria glared at her and said a little prayer that the woman would choke on her stupid gum.

After buying a large popcorn, pop and box of Jujubes, Gloria found a seat towards the back of the theatre.  Gloria took a big sip of Sprite, then tossed a couple of Jujubes in her mouth.  “The problem with Jujubes is that they get stuck to your teeth and then you have to kind of scrape away the gook with your fingernails, which is hard to do in public.”  Gloria turned to where the voice seemed to be coming from.  Behind her, two seats to the left, sat a tall shaggy haired young man.  He smiled at Gloria and showed her his own box of Jujubes.  Suddenly Gloria was very aware of all the Jujube-ness squished down into her teeth.  “When I take a girl out on a date I never get Jujubes, because you know, you gotta be cool, you can’t be sticking your finger in your mouth during a date.”  Gloria laughed, “black and red are my favorite,” she said.  “Really? I’m more of an orange and green guy myself.  My name’s Mike by the way.”  Gloria looked at Mike, noticing a large but beautiful gap between his two perfectly straight front teeth.  Gloria wondered if Jujube muck got stuck in the gap.  Mike moved seats, so that he was one seat closer, but still behind her. “It’s a good thing that we’re not on a date,” said Mike, “because this way we can both enjoy our Jujubes.  Feel free to stick a finger in your mouth, I probably will.  What did you say your name was?”  “I didn’t. It’s Gloria.  My name is Gloria.”  Gloria was smiling like a demented clown, a huge, wide smile, she couldn’t control it.  She was sure that Mike could see Jujube muck in her mouth.  The theatre lights went down. “Pleased to meet you Gloria, I feel like this is my lucky day.”

F is for Frannie

It was 5:00 pm, Frannie’s husband Gus would be home from work soon. Frannie checked on the pot roast in the oven and set the table. She added a little more butter to the mashed potatoes, then poured herself a glass of wine.

Frannie kept a box of Chardonnay in the fridge. Every evening at precisely 5:00 o’clock, she poured herself a large goblet-full and continued to refill it throughout the night. As Gus would ramble on about his day at work, Frannie would sip from her glass and respond appropriately. When needed she would gasp, other times shake her head, but more often than not she would simply nod approvingly.

From 7:00-10:00 pm Gus watched back-to-back episodes of those cop shows featuring tough talking NYC policemen solving heinous crimes. At 8:00 Frannie would bring Gus his dessert, which he would eat while lying down on their brown leather couch. He would balance the plate on his soft round belly and slowly shovel forkfuls of sweetness into his small mouth. On more than one occasion Frannie had asked him to eat his dessert while sitting up, she was afraid he would choke. He always refused, saying he worked hard and deserved to relax when he was home. Frannie didn’t know the Heimlich manoeuvre and she had no intention of learning it, so he was on his own.

Tonight’s dessert was pecan pie and vanilla ice cream. The pie was freshly baked, not by Frannie, but by the bakery at her local supermarket. Though Frannie considered herself a decent baker, she saw no reason to waste her time with it. A man like Gus didn’t know the difference between a home baked pie and a store bought one, so what was the point? Besides, Frannie enjoyed keeping up the ruse, delighting each time she discarded another bakery box.

While Gus watched television Frannie would tidy up and lay out clean clothes for him for the next day. Then, after refreshing her wine, she would go to their office and turn on the computer. Frannie collected garden gnomes – she currently had 39 gnomes displayed throughout their backyard – and she was always on the hunt for new and unique ones. Last summer Frannie had suffered a horrible loss to her collection: her red, white and blue 4th of July gnome had been stolen from their front porch. It had taken Frannie weeks to recover. What kind of a low-life steals a patriotic garden gnome?

Frannie was busy scrolling through websites when Gus called out: “Frannie, a little more please! It’s one of your best pecan pies ever!” “Ha!” thought Frannie. She went and retrieved the plate from Gus’s belly and re-filled it with more pie and ice cream.

“Thanks Frannie,” he said with his eyes glued to the television screen, as she placed the plate back on his bulging mid-section.

Frannie returned to her search and ten minutes later she scored: a bright yellow gnome on sale for $19.99. She quickly typed in her credit card information and address. The yellow would be a great pop of color for the back corner of her garden which was currently filled with darker shade plants.

“Frannie, I’m finished!” yelled Gus.

Frannie went and took the empty plate off of Gus’s belly, rinsed it and placed it in the dishwasher.  Then she went outside, turned on the sprinkler and watched as her gnomes enjoyed their nightly bath.

E is for Ethel

“Would you like to try a sample?  It’s our newest praline, coconut & chocolate coated, they’re just delicious!”  A very large woman wearing a pink felt hat – in June! – graciously accepted a sample.  Ethel smiled at her and then moved along, pausing to take a sip of orange Gatorade to keep her energy up.  She kept a small bottle in her apron pocket, though technically speaking it was more of a Gatorade Cocktail.  The vodka allowed Ethel to sail through her day and not be bothered by the loud tourists, the sticky fingered kids and the rich ladies who looked down on Ethel, even as they picked out the chocolates that they would later binge on.

“Ethel – it’s time for your break!” shouted her Manager, Mary-Jo.  Mary-Jo believed in crystals, colour therapy and past lives.  She dressed in purple because it was her “power colour,” “I’m a Goddess Warrior when I wear purple!” she was fond of saying.  She also wore huge cuff bracelets – Wonder Woman style – several ornate rings and dangly amethyst earrings.  “Ethel -” she lightly touched Ethel’s arm, “we need to get you dressing in your power colour – turquoise.  Your life will manifest ten times its beauty once you start honouring your inner Goddess!”  Ethel had absolutely no idea what Mary-Jo was talking about.  She continued on into the break room and opened the fridge to get her lunch.  Ethel ate the same thing everyday – carrot sticks and a tuna sandwich.  She figured this healthy eating cancelled out her daily vodka intake.

Ethel slipped off her Easy Spirit loafers and took a bite of her sandwich.  She looked forward to finishing her shift and getting home.  On Wednesday nights her friend Marg always came over.  They would order Chinese food and drink a couple bottles of wine, sometimes three.  Marg was twice divorced and lived with seven cats.  Ethel couldn’t stand the smell of Marg’s apartment so Marg always came to Ethel’s place.  They had met each other years ago at an AA meeting and had remained close friends.

As Ethel munched on her carrots and read a magazine article about celebrity dogs, a large crystal suddenly appeared in front of her on the table.  “Ethel, I bought you this sacred, healing crystal to help you start out on your journey of transformation.”  Mary-Jo was looking at her intently, like one of those zealots who were always handing out pamphlets.  “Christ on a Crutch!” thought Ethel.  Just then, Julie, a part-time worker, buzzed the intercom: “Mary-Jo, I need your help out here, I’ve got a line-up.” “Find your power Ethel!” said Mary-Jo as she raced out – Goddess Warrior style – to help Julie.  Ethel finished her sandwich and carrots, then stretched out on the old, white leather couch to take a ten minute nap.  She left the crystal on the table, next to the roll of paper towels and packets of sugar and salt.  “I’ve got my own damn power, thank you very much,” she said to herself as she dozed off.

D is for Deloris

Doloris waited for Porch Cat’s arrival.  Every night around 8:00 pm Porch Cat came to her house to eat dinner.  Tonight she had put out a bowl of canned tuna for him.  Porch Cat loved to be petted.  After finishing his meal he would saunter over to Deloris who would stroke his silky caramel fur, then he would curl up on her mushy thighs and nap for about ten minutes.  After that he usually scampered off, always turning his head to look back at her once – his way of saying good-bye.

Deloris checked her cell phone, it was 7:58.  She took a long sip of Rose, then lit a Menthol Light.  She watched the kids across the street play in their front yard.  It was late May so it was still light outside.  Deloris wasn’t a big fan of children, she found them noisy, messy and she hated how they always asked “but why?” about every damn thing.  She thought it foolish that anyone actually procreated these days. If a couple wanted a child they should adopt, there were thousands of babies and children wasting away in orphanages and hellish foster care homes. Deloris had watched an NBC Special Report on this subject matter, so she knew what she was talking about.  She took another long sip of Rose.  She was getting riled up now about the issue – the narcissism of people who insisted on having their own babies when there were desperate babies all over the world – blew her mind. Deloris scowled as she exhaled smoke – selfish pricks she thought to herself.

It was now 8:00 and no sign of Porch Cat yet.  Deloris checked to make sure she had remembered to put out fresh water then sat back down.  She smoothed out her colourful print tunic, it was one of her new spring purchases.  Deloris only shopped at one store – Chico’s.  Her favourite saleswoman was Jolene, they had become friends and occasionally went out for Margaritas together.  Jolene had taught Deloris about highlighting her best features and hiding her worst. According to Jolene, Deloris was pear shaped.  Deloris hated pears and she didn’t like the idea that her body was shaped like one, but Jolene had a great eye and soon after starting to shop with her Deloris started to receive compliments at work.  Even her boss, Mr. Elton, who never said anything to anyone, complimented her one day on her outfit.

A caramel fur ball swooshed up the steps – it was Porch Cat!  Deloris smiled as she watched him scarf down his tuna.  Porch Cat was starting to look a little chunky – Watermelon shaped – and Deloris figured it was because he ate dinner at more than one house.  Porch Cat clearly belonged to someone, he was friendly and looked well taken care of.  He had a collar with a tag, but Deloris never called the number on it because she didn’t want him to stop visiting her.  What if his owner decided to keep him inside?!  He needed to be out and about, doing cat things, so that his cat soul would be fulfilled.  After finishing his dinner Porch Cat hopped up next to Deloris and nuzzled her.  A watermelon and a pear, happy together.

 

 

 

C is for Charlie

Charlie activated the boutique’s alarm then locked the door.  She walked to her car and got in, but before starting the engine she got out and walked back to the door.  She tried opening it, but of course it was locked.  Okay, she thought, all is alright.

Driving home she listened to KCRW, while dangling a Belmont out the window. A Prius drove up next to her – “you’re killing yourself and polluting our shared air!” shouted a twenty-something.  He had a messy man bun, an even messier Grizzly Adams beard and though Charlie couldn’t see them, she was certain that he was wearing skinny jeans – probably with the pre-shredded knees. Charlie took a long drag of her cigarette and blew smoke towards his open window.  She smiled and waved as he roared off – well, as much as you can roar off when you’re driving a Prius.

Charlie sang to herself, “hold’er Jack, we’re headed for the rhubarb!” as she took a sharp corner into Trader Joe’s parking lot.  She grabbed her canvas shopping bags – God forbid you didn’t bring your own bags, the other shoppers would probably stone you to death with organic nuts – and headed in to do a little grocery shopping.

She filled her cart quickly – fresh flowers (every Friday she bought herself flowers), wine, pre-made salad, Louisiana sausages, Tortilla chips…In the frozen dessert aisle a handsome guy with salt and pepper hair smiled at her, “have you tried these Mochi?  They’re insane.  Last time I bought them I ate the whole box in one sitting.”  He was wearing beat-up black engineer boots – maybe Frye? – with faded jeans, a pricey looking sports watch and a ratty Motörhead tee. Hmm thought Charlie.  She smiled back.  “I like a guy who binges, I’ll try a box of those,” she reached over to get a box out of the freezer and their arms touched.  “I’m Max” he held out his hand to shake hers.  “Charlie,” she answered, giving his hand a firm shake after she placed the Mochi in her cart.

They walked down the aisle together.  “I forgot my shopping bags,” he said with a grimace.  “I’m dreading going to the check-out counter, they always give you that look, you know?”  Charlie laughed, “I know!!  I’m so over this ‘Ecowarrior, green smoothie drinking, politically correct, everybody is wearing glasses, retro crap!’ I can’t take it anymore!”  Max exploded into a fit of laughter.  He was so loud that several guys in the Craft Beer section looked up from their label hunting.  His laughter reminded Charlie of Rhoda Morgenstern from The Mary Tyler Moore show, it didn’t seem to match who he was and yet it was perfect.